Panic Disorder Treatment Options
Panic attacks and panic disorders are treatable once the underlying cause is identified. Usually medical conditions and other factors are ruled out before making the diagnosis, says Flo Leighton, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and therapist with Union Square Practice in Manhattan. Getting to the root cause typically takes a couple of sessions, says Leighton. Here are some options that may be recommended to you :
Figure Out Your Triggers
Another great tip for those who want to know how to stop a panic attack fast is to figure out what triggers your panic attacks to begin with. This can take time, but can be very effective in helping you avoid the things that cause you to feel anxious, and to anticipate and minimize your symptoms when you cant. Each time you experience a panic attack, take the time to write down the events that occurred beforehand, as well as the physical and psychological symptoms you experienced. Over time, you will likely see patterns, and can then formulate a plan to avoid your triggers.
Why We Need To Make Sure People Understand The Difference
While conducting research for this article, we encountered more than a dozen mental health professionals who mistakenly believed the terms anxiety attack and panic attack were synonymous. They were licensed professionals, but none of them had a specialty in anxiety. Because anxiety attack is not a clinical term, they assumed it was a synonym for panic attack. This caused them to use the terms interchangeably, which can often confuse the issue even more.
People who deal with anxiety attacks or panic attacks often make similar mistakes. Some suffer from panic attacks but use the term anxiety attack to describe their symptoms and vice versa.
This confusion is why potential therapy clients and other anxiety sufferers need to educate themselves more on the topic or work with an anxiety specialist who really understands the differences. If you dont understand the terms and their differences, you might end up treating a panic disorder that you dont actually have. In the worst case scenario, you could even become dependent on a medication you dont need. Thats why its vital to seek out information about your specific condition and work with someone who is knowledgeable about the challenges that your unique condition presents. With luck, this article has been helpful in shedding some light on the differences between these similar terms!
Take Stock Of Your Situation And Surroundings
For many, weed-based anxiety involves a hefty dose of paranoia about other people. Because marijuana is a drug enjoyed in social settings, getting too stoned can lead to suspicions that your own friends resent you, or that you’re somehow “ruining”their good time.
“Research has shown that individual responses to a given drug can absolutely be influenced by the situation in which it occurs,” Vandrey says. “If somebody takes a drug that produces anxiety in uncomfortable surroundings, they may heighten their anxiety. Cannabis is a perfect example.”
If environmental factors are contributing to your fear or stress, removing yourself from that context can help.
Is It Possible To Prevent A Panic Attack
Preventing panic attacks can start with reducing stress in your everyday life. Eating right and drinking plenty of water can help, but regular exercise and proper sleep hygiene are even more integral to stress reduction. Getting regular exercise, which for most people is 150 minutes or more of elevated heart rate activity per week, has been shown to help elevate your mood and offset some of the feelings of anxiety and depression that fuel panic attacks. Getting enough sleep also helps reduce stress overall.
When you reduce stressors in your life, the threshold for panic attacks lessens. Practicing daily meditation or engaging in a meditative exercise like yoga can help you frame your mental state and focus your thoughts. If you meditate daily, you may be able to use your meditation techniques to help lessen a panic attack when it happens or prevent one from starting entirely.
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To Relieve Anxiety Talk Out Loud To Yourself
Give yourself permission to have an anxiety attack by saying the words out loud. Remind yourself that the attack will end, and it wont kill you or cause you to faint.
Carbonell says that understanding the physiology of fainting and reminding yourself of it is important. People faint when their blood pressure drops. A anxiety attack can make you feel like youre going to faint, but you wont because your blood pressure doesn’t drop during an attack. Remind yourself out loud of truths like these to counter your fears.
Close Your Eyes And Breathe
Whenever you find yourself having a panic attack, take a moment to lie down, close your eyes, and take a deep breath in. Then out. In. Then Out. In. Out. Breathing deep naturally helps slow your heart rate to help you calm your anxiety. Taking the time to focus on your breath helps move your mind into the present inside of the past or future. Find time each day to get that quiet moment to yourself just to breathe. The more you practice mindful breathing, the fewer panic attacks youll have.
How To Stop An Anxiety Attack
People have this powerful idea to make the anxiety attack stop, Carbonell says, but you cant make it stop through force of will. However, if you look back at your history, you’ll see that every anxiety attack does indeed stop, even if it feels awful for a while.
Your best first step stopping an anxiety attack is to simply notice your symptoms and accept that you’re having an attack. This can be challenging if it’s one of your first anxiety attacks, but after that you’ll know more about what to expect.
Causes Of Anxiety Fear And Panic
There are many different causes of anxiety, fear or panic and it’s different for everyone.
When you’re feeling anxious or scared, your body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
This can be helpful in some situations, but it might also cause physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate and increased sweating. In some people, it might cause a panic attack.
Regular anxiety, fear or panic can also be the main symptom of several health conditions. Do not self-diagnose speak to a GP if you’re worried about how you’re feeling.
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Know The Signs Of A Panic Attack
“Often, when you don’t know the physiological signs of a panic attack you may feel more scared imagining you’re having a heart attack,” says Annie Wright, LMFT and the owner and clinical director of Evergreen Counseling. “Read up on the signs of a panic attack so you know what you’re dealing with.”
Dr. Rodriguez recommends scouring the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website, which covers all the symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
- Derealization or depersonalization
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
Rodriguez adds that its critical to also get a physical exam to rule out other problems.
Find Activities That Reduce Stress
Its important to incorporate activities into your routine that help reduce stress, and its effects on the body.
Exercise releases endorphins, a natural chemical that makes you feel happy, into the body. Consistent exercise has been linked to a reduction in stress and tension, an improvement in sleep, and a more stabilized mood. In conjunction with therapy and prescribed medication, exercise can provide you with additional control over your anxiety and panic disorder.
Combinations of hand movements and mantras can help the patient immediately reduce anxiety.
Strauss recommends yoga, specifically, for its ability to calm and ground a person whos been triggered or may feel a panic attack coming on.
Yoga is an excellent tool that often helps people understand how the mind and body are linked. Body awareness helps us understand the bodys response to anxiety and how to ease those symptoms, she says. Certain combinations of hand movements, called mudras in yoga, combined with a mantra can help the patient almost immediately reduce anxiety.
Hand movement examples include putting your palms together in a prayer-like motion, and touching your thumb to your pinky and ring fingers. If people have trouble with the Sanskrit syllables, I redirect them to simply chant, I am O-K, and this seems to work just as well, says Strauss.
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Anxiety Raises Heart Rate And Is Associated With Heart Disease
Anxiety disorders are associated with tachycardia, or a rapid heart rate, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Over time, this can put extra stress on the heart, and increase your risk for heart disease.
For example, a 2010 meta-analysis found that those with anxiety had a 26% increased risk of getting coronary artery disease, which is the most common type of heart disease. According to a 2016 review in Current Psychiatry Reports, anxiety disorders are also associated with heart failure, and poor cardiovascular health overall.
Brian Isaacson, MD, MBA, Program Director of Department of Psychiatry at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, says some studies have also shown that people with anxiety have an increased rate of heart rhythm disturbances, including palpitations and premature beats.
It’s As If A Vice Is Squeezing Me
Anita Lesko, 61, Pensacola, Fla.
Courtesy Anita Lesko
Anita Lesko has always been a germaphobe, so her anxiety started to build when she first read about the coronavirus in early 2020.
A certified registered nurse anesthetist , Lesko knew she was at higher risk of exposure because of her job administering anesthesia to patients before surgery. When she began hearing about the nationwide lack of personal protective equipment for health-care workers, Lesko really began to worry.
“The prospect of going to work, getting exposed and ending up on a ventilator or dead that’s what pushed me over the edge, she says.
One morning in March, when she was between patients at the hospital, Lesko developed a deep feeling of impending doom. She began to hyperventilate, her heart started racing and she broke out in a sweat. Pressure began building in her chest.
“I got a gripping sensation in my whole chest and throat area, as if a vice was squeezing me, she said. Then I started shaking literally to the core of my body.
Lesko asked to leave early and fled to her car. She collapsed into the driver’s seat and burst into tears.
“I was just sitting there trying to talk myself out of it, and trying to make myself breathe normally, she recalls.
It took about 30 minutes before she was calm enough to drive. When Lesko got home, she was so exhausted she had to sleep for a few hours before she could do anything.
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Try To Find Evidence For Your Fear
When trying to stop a panic attack, you need to get to the root cause of it: your fear. Many times are fears are exaggerated in our mind. Our imagination can play some terrifying tricks on us. A simple way to stop panic attacks is to first label what the situation or trigger is. For example, an upcoming wedding. Then, list your feelings such as anxious, paranoid, scared, etc. Next, name the unhelpful thoughts that youre having. For example, feeling like youre in danger, feeling like youre about to die. Then, list the facts that support your unhelpful thought.
Keep in mind they need to be facts not beliefs. You might have some weird coincidences that you can list but that wont be considered actual evidence. Then, list facts that provide evidence against the unhelpful thought. For example, maybe youre still young and healthy so you likely arent about to die. Next, provide an alternative and more realistic. Next, focus on reevaluate you how currently feel. This is the Thought Record you can fill out to help you.
Witness And Challenge Your Thoughts
There are often negative and untrue thoughts going through our minds during a panic attack. For instance, you might feel like this panic attack is going to last forever or that you will die. Before thoughts have spiraled out of control, start by simply witnessing the thoughts objectively. You can pretend the thoughts are a friend talking to you. Listen in on the stories, worries and exaggerations this friend is sharing and try to challenge these thoughts methodically, one at a time.
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Identify A Point Person
Annette said that one of the things that has helped her through attacks is having what she calls a panic attack point person. This may be your therapist, a family member or spouse, or a good friend. Whoever it is, this person should be familiar with your anxiety history, and should be someone you feel you can rely on.
It’s important to have people in your life who don’t judge you and know what works for you when you are having an episode, says Annette, a 43-year-old woman in Oregon who has been diagnosed with panic disorder. I’m so lucky to have a couple people who are always there for me and treat me with respect and dignity when I need it most.
What Does A Panic Attack Feel Like
Imagine that you’re driving to work when you’re suddenly overcome with feelings of dread and fear. Your heart feels as though it’s pounding out of your chest and you have difficulty breathing. You become increasingly afraid as you begin shaking and sweating. You feel tingling, like “pins and needles,” in your legs and hands and you start getting nauseous.
You think, “This cant be happening to me.” You almost get a sense that you’re watching yourself from a distance, feeling completely disconnected from yourself and your surroundings. You pull over to the side of the road, fearing that you will lose control of your car or possibly pass out behind the wheel.
Just as quickly as your symptoms set in, you notice that these sensations are gradually subsiding. But even when you realize the panic attack has passed, you still feel on edge or keyed up. It takes you a minute to refocus and get back on the road. The rest of your day is marked by a sense of nervousness and apprehension.
These attacks can have an emotional, physical, and cognitive impact that may affect you long after the attack has diminished. After experiencing a panic attack, you may find it difficult to pull yourself back together.
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How To Cope With A Panic Attack At Night
Waking up and discovering youre having a panic attack can be an overwhelming and scary experience, and the fact that youre probably still groggy and trying to come round from sleep, can make you feel out of control and cause you to panic even more.
If youre having a nocturnal panic attack, try the following:
Dont fight it
If you wake up and youre having a panic attack, its important not to fight it, as this could make things worse. Accept the panic attack for what it is and let the feelings wash over you. Remember, it is only temporary, and it will fade eventually. You just need to let it happen.
Try and relax
Try to get your body back into a relaxed state. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly to regulate your breathing. Relax your muscles, and try to focus your mind on positive thoughts and images.
Get up and do something
Go back to bed when youre ready
Only go back to bed when youre beginning to feel tired again and ready for sleep. When youre in bed, keep yourself calm by breathing deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth, to the extent that your whole abdomen, not just your chest, is rising and falling.
You’re Frozen You Can’t Move You Think The End Is Coming
Corky Klein, 63, Laguna Beach, Calif.
Courtesy Corky Klein
Corky Klein knows she’s about to have an anxiety attack when her whole body breaks out in a sweat.
“I even get sweaty on the balls of my feet, she says.
She gets light-headed, and a little dizzy. Then the headache and the panic hit.
“You forget about everything around you, Klein says. Your heart is beating horribly, and that brings on more panic. You get this scared feeling and you want to run. But you’re frozen. You can’t move. You think the end is coming.”
Klein began having panic attacks after her mom died when she was 16. Over the years, she says her anxiety led her into dark bouts of alcoholism and addiction, into long periods of isolation, and on many trips to the emergency room.
Ten years ago, at age 53, she was still having frequent panic attacks, even though she had kicked her addictions. Concerned, her doctor persuaded her to try therapy, and she began seeing a cognitive behavior therapist who specialized in anxiety.
The therapist helped her process the trauma in her past and taught her how to cope with her anxiety before it escalated.
“I learned that I had never dealt with the stuff that had happened to me, Klein says.
Her panic attacks became less frequent, and she focused on exercising, enjoying her retirement and spending time with her son and other family members.
How she copes: She exercises every day , and she uses an app called Calm for meditation and deep-breathing exercises.
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